How Milford Came About
The Town of Milford, New Hampshire
BY POLLY S. COTE
November 12, 1659 the General Court of Massachusetts upon the petition of the Town of Charlestown, granted for the benefit of its schools the tract of land of 1,000 acres known as the Charlestown School Farm to be sold by them as a way of earning money for their schools. Jonathan Danforth was a noted surveyor of that time and was entrusted with the duty of locating the farm grant some forty years after the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620. He was the first white man to look upon this spot. Dram-Cup Hill had no name at that time. He returned to Massachusetts general court and spoke of its as a great hill. He returned some years later with a commission in his pocket from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to lay out the grand old town of Dunstable. Something had happened during this interval which had given the hill a name and in his return to Massachusetts, he speaks of it as a hill called Dram-Cup Hill. There is no known record of where the name came from, history books are silent and tradition gives no information. One thousand acres more or less in the wilderness on the western side of the Merrimack River at a place commonly called by the Indians as Sowheaganucke. This was located near the Jones Bridge in Milford. Charlestown held this grant until 1743 when it was sold to a Benjamin Hopkins if Billerica, MA for L375.
Another farm of 500 acres was granted to a Mrs. Anna Cole of Boston. This grant extended West of the Charlestown School Farm grant and contained land on both sides of the river. A tract of approximately 200 acres in size that never was granted eventually was purchased by Jonathan Blanchard after the grant of Dunstable and he eventually owned about 900 acres. Below the Lane farm, a fourth grant of 50 acres was made to Captain William Davis of Boston and another 500 acres to Captain Isaiah Johnson of Roxbury. A fifth grant of 700 acres was made to John Wilson.
These grants up and down the river were unusually fertile land about six miles in length and about the same in width. The purpose of these grants was to reward some of the citizens of Massachusetts who had served in the Narragansett War which had taken place against the Indians led by King Philip in 1775 - 76. There was a long period of time that had passed between the war and the grant and in most cases the heirs of the soldiers are the ones who benefited.
Not long after these grants were made, settlements commenced on Salmon Brook, now Nashua. The Indians called this Watanic and these people felt the need for township privileges and in 1763 they petitioned the general court of Massachusetts. Jonathan Danforth returned some years later with a commission in his pocket from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to survey and lay out the grand old town of Dunstable. Something had happened during this interval which had given the hill a name and in his return to Massachusetts, he speaks of it as a hill called Dram-Cup Hill. There is no known record of where the name came from, history books are silent and tradition gives no information.
The area was incorporated into the township of Dunstable, deriving its name from Dunstable, England as some of the owners were from that place. The charter was granted October 16, 1673. Most of the land was in Massachusetts and formed a part of the county of Middlesex. Included in the county were Tyngsboro, the east part of Dunstable, the north side of Pepperell, northeast corner of Townsend, all in Massachusetts. In New Hampshire, the towns of Hudson, Litchfield, sw Londonderry, the west part of Pelham all being on the east side of the Merrimack River. The west side of the Merrimack River included Nashua, Hollis, Amherst, Merrimack, Brookline and Milford. The total size of the grant was north to south 17 miles and east to west about 16 miles, comprising 20 square miles of about 128,000 acres.
New Hampshire was incorporated in 1741 and about 1746 two thirds of the settlement in this area was known as Monson for about a generation and included about 20,000 acres. We will not get into Monson as there is a separate history of that town.
Milford was incorporated in 1794 with land that was a large part of Amherst, the nw part of Hollis (or Monson), the Mile Slip and a large part of the grant from 1733 called the Duxbury School Farm and the old Charlestown School Farm.
William Peabody was an early settler in 1740, along with John Shepherd, Capt. Josiah Crosby, who is said to have killed nine bears his first year of settlement, John Burns, Elisha Hutchinson, grandfather of the famous singers, and many others.
Clocks and stoves were not heard of in this early day. The hourglass and the huge oven in the fire place were all the housewife had. Settlers located near brooks so water could easily be obtained. Wells were dug as prosperity increased and the water was brought up in a bucket attached to a rope. Carpets and wallpaper were unknown in early homes. The floors were covered with clean white sand, cider was a common drink and used for vinegar, there were no pleasure wagons, ploughs had a mouldboard of wood covered with scraps of iron. There was very little money in circulation during these early times and strict economy was practiced. All went barefoot in the summer and only wore their shoes inside the church.
At first these people lived in a frontier community and during the French and Indian War they had to request protection from the state authorities against possible Indian attacks. No attacks were ever made against any of the inhabitants. Garrisons were made of logs and were resorted to at an intimation of danger. One of these garrisons was located at the farm of William Peabody and had been built at early as 1741.
In 1941, on July 4, the area towns that comprised the ancient Town of Dunstable celebrated the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the New Hampshire and Massachusetts town line.
After 1735, what is now known as Amherst was called Narraganset No 3 and later Souhegan West. Again, Narragansett 3 was granted by Massachusetts to veterans in a war with the Indians led by King Philip. As Souhegan West began to grow, the townspeople felt a need for a gristmill. In 1740 they voted to give Solomon Wilkins 60 acres of land by the falls on the Souhegan River on condition that he build a grist mill so that the people could have their corn ground into meal. Wilkins did not fulfill the conditions by a stipulated date, and Souhegan West decided to make the same offer to someone else, doubling the amount of land as an additional inducement. John Shepard appeared on the scene, coming from Concord, MA in 1741. The proprietors voted to give John Shepard 120 acres and that he build a good grist mill and good saw mill on said Souhegan River and finish them by the last of November next and keep them in good repair.
Shepards Mill was built in 1741 at the fordway on the North side of the Souhegan River (just East of the present Stone Bridge in Milford) in the Southwest Parish. It was the first water wheel. At that time, near the falls of the river was a shallow place that could be easily forded. Mr. Shepard eventually built a footbridge across the river, but the teams had to ford the river. Shepards Mill became known as the "Mill by the Ford". It was a sawmill and received huge trunks of native pines and other native woods. Shepard also established a gristmill alongside the sawmill and men would carry grain on their shoulders ten to twelve miles to the mill. They also brought from long distances corn, and rye. The two mills were known far and wide as Shepards Mills.
By 1742 Souhegan West came under the jurisdiction of the newly organized Province of New Hampshire. One of the stipulations of the newly organized province was that inhabitants had to build a meetinghouse in order to receive township privileges. Amherst was incorporated in 1760.
By 1783 the Southwest Parish of Amherst voted to raise L32 and discharge expenses of the Parish and L95 to purchase timber, shingles and other materials for the building of a meetinghouse. The meetinghouse was raised the summer of 1784 and was known as The Third Church of Amherst. The building of the meetinghouse took several years. The Southwest Parish met for the last time on October 29, 1792. On January 11, 1794 the State of New Hampshire passed "An act to incorporate the Southwest Parish of Amherst with other lands adjacent into a Town by the name of Millford. (The name was derived from the "Mill by the Ford") The new town of Millford included land in the Southwest Parish of Amherst, Mile Slip, Charlestown School Farm, Duxbury School Farm and the Northwest part of Hollis".
The Millford charter was at one time folded into sixths. On the outside fold someone inscribed "Milford Corporation". No date of this inscription or who wrote this was noted. Whoever did this may not have been aware that Milford was to be spelled with two "LL's" and not one. Milford's original charter is on display at the Carey House which is the home of the Milford Historical Soceity.
So, the rest is history and to this day "Millford" has been known as "Milford".